4 Tweaks We Made To Our Business That Drastically Improved Sales

Sometimes a seemingly insignificant change to your website or online strategy can pay huge dividends. And in many cases, the answer to improving sales requires very little effort to implement.

In this article, I’m going to discuss the slight tweaks and minute changes that we made to our website that had a dramatic impact on our business.

Before I get into the guts of what we did, I just want to stress the importance of obtaining quality metrics for your website. It is especially vital that you accurately track the way a customer navigates through your online store. Do they leave your website from a particular page? Are they having problems finding a particular product?

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Photo by Gare and Kitty

As long as you periodically evaluate how your customer interacts with your products and website, you can usually spot and make changes to allow them to find your products faster and easier.

The information you gather will allow you to make small tweaks to improve the customer experience. Here are the little things we implemented that helped out our store sales significantly.

We Changed The Search Bar

Because our store is pretty small and our hierarchy of products do not go very deep, I never really devoted many cycles thinking about how ‘search’ worked on our online store website. Once someone found us via Google, Yahoo etc…, I never thought that customers actually used the ‘search’ feature on our website much at all.

But recently our web analytics have indicated otherwise. It turned out that a good percentage of our visitors actually used our product search bar during their visit. What was odd however was that almost 70% of them left our store immediately after executing a single query.

While this abnormally high percentage seemed suspicious to me, I never really thought much of it. Why? Because we get a ton of random visitors from the web and it’s conceivable that most of them were simply looking for something that we did not carry.

In any case, I had some free time one day so I decided to investigate this a little bit. I took a closer look at what some of our customers were searching for and it turned out that most of these searches should have returned relevant products the majority of the time! It just didn’t make any sense.

So I went on our site and entered some of these exact same searches and lo and behold, the search returned absolutely no products. Was our search busted all of this time? I tried other searches to make sure but strangely enough, the searches that I entered were always successful. Why were the customer searches busted and not mine?

The answer turned out to be very simple. A while ago when we were on shared hosting, I limited the scope of our search in order to reduce CPU usage. Essentially, I nerfed our search so that it only searched the product titles and not the descriptions. Therefore, searches for “Mother of the Bride” or “Father of the Bride” returned no matches.

As soon as I switched the search to include all of the product descriptions, the exit rate for all of our searches went way way down. While it’s difficult to exactly correlate this change with the increase in sales, I suspect that the effect was fairly dramatic.

We Added A Pull In Item

I actually got this tip from a sales book that I read so I take no credit for this idea. In a nutshell, the basic concept is to include a popular product in your lineup at a very attractive price. Customers will be drawn in by this one item and then you can cross sell them additional items on their way to checkout.

In all of our major product categories, we started inserting one item at rock bottom prices. We found that while some customers just purchased the cheap items and then left, the majority of them ended up buying other products at higher margins. Sure, we didn’t make much profit on these draw in items but we found that our overall order size increased significantly.

I think this tactic works because psychologically the customers feel as though he/she can buy more because they are getting such a good deal on something else. Whatever the reason, I’m now a strong advocate of this tactic based on our results.

We Added A Return Policy

When my wife and I first considered adding a return policy, I thought to myself, “Why would I ever want to deal with people wanting to make returns?”

But just as an experiment, we decided to give it shot. Who would’ve guessed that adding a return policy would actually make customers want to buy more? The increase in order size was the most evident when taking customer orders over the phone.

Customer: We need to get some cocktail napkins for our engagement party but we aren’t exactly sure how many people are coming. I don’t want to buy too many or too little.
Me: Don’t worry about it. Just buy as many napkins as you need assuming everyone comes and then return what ever you don’t use!
Customer: That’s a great idea!

90% of the time, the returns were never sent back to us. I think that customers just want the security of being able to return something but rarely do they actually act on it. Especially if you sell quality products, you have nothing to fear in accepting returns.

We Added Shipping Incentives

The final thing we did was add shipping incentives for large orders. For all orders over 100 dollars, we started offering free ground shipping anywhere! Once again, I was skeptical of this tactic, but sure enough we started getting orders for just over 100 dollars.

When I observed the shopping patterns of random customers, I would sometimes find them hunting around the site for just one more item to put them over the edge. Needless to say, these incentives increased our average order size.

Find Out What Works Best For You

The key to finding the right tweaks to make to your business is to experiment and analyze the effect on your top line. But this can only be done if you instrument your website so that accurate statistics can be recorded. Not every sales strategy will work for everyone, and sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to get things right. The above 4 tweaks took almost no time to change and made a drastic impact on our sales.

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13 thoughts on “4 Tweaks We Made To Our Business That Drastically Improved Sales”

  1. This is an excellent bunch of advice and might I add that it makes sense to install Google’s Website Optimizer and split test everything to see what sells more.

    1. @Seamus
      I dabbled with the website optimizer early on and I think it’s a great tool, especially because its free. I find that optimizer is best used when making small tweaks to a given page and checking the results. I didn’t really need it for the search experiment but it certainly will have come in handy if I ever redesign the product layout.

      @Jon
      I’ve debated for a long time whether to add hacker safe to the site. They claim a 15% increase in conversions, but they charge a good amount of money to add the logo.

      @Scopulus
      I agree with this philosophy as long as all of the buttons don’t look cluttered on the page.

  2. Thanks, great tips! It’s interesting how sometimes small things make a huge difference. I once read of a site who increased their sales by a fair margin by placing their “Hacker Safe” (now “McAfee Secure”) logo higher on the page! I guess if it makes your customers feel good, do it.

  3. It is said that and if you add PayPal as a method of payment ( that if you have not already), then sales increase.

    This is something i have seen working and the idea is that you give your customers as many method so there is more chance they find one thay are comfortable with.

  4. Hi Steve,

    I have 3 suggestions but they are not simple tweaks. They require some effort.

    1. Set up a discussion forum on your website so that you can find out what your customers and potential customers really think.

    2. Use Live Chat. My personal experience of Live Chat with Hostgator’s customer service assistants was one of the main factors I stay with them.

    3. Engage your visitors using ‘Multimedia’ techniques. Displaying your products with the use of professional video clips can be very visually enticing and would be effective to create a mental image in your prospects’ mind how their parties gonna look.

    If you’ve not already adopted what I’ve suggested, you might want to consider them, if not for now, then perhaps for the future.

    Cheers~

    Mark

    1. Hi Mark,

      I like your ideas. In fact Live Chat is something that I’m looking into right now. As for the forums, that will become a better idea once we become more established and have more traffic. If we did forums right now, they would be pretty dead. I tend to have a different philosophy in regards to ‘multimedia’ techniques. Our customer base covers a wide range. In fact, a good percentage of our customers are either on dial-up or are not good at using computers. I would prefer to keep the shopping experience as simple as possible. Don’t get me wrong. Multimedia has its place but personally I hate shopping at sites with too many distractions.

  5. @Steve
    I inquired a long time ago, before they were acquired by McAfee, and it was $1700-$1900 for me if I remember correctly. Oh yeah, PER YEAR. Because of that, I’ve never tried it out, but it would be interesting to know how often it really gets that extra 15%. I suspect it’ll make less and less difference over time as the general public becomes more accustomed to shopping online. On the other hand, McAfee thought they were worth $50 million, so what do I know?

    1. @Jon
      Our online store is still growing at a pretty fast rate so the only real way to tell Hacker Safe’s effectiveness would be to do some A/B testing over several months. I wonder if they would let me test drive their logo on our store for a short period. It’s been a while since I’ve talked to the rep. If I try it, I’ll let you know how it goes.

  6. Great Article!

    Being great at sales is the aim of any business. Sales and more sales is the key to the success of any business. Like all other activities which are ruled by certain basic principles, there are rules for selling which will make sure that you seal the deal.

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